Our cherished individual relationships are those that nurture, support, encourage, and lift us up in times of doubts and difficulties; they provide our "bridge over troubled waters." They are also the ones within which we share our triumphs, we give love and receive love, and we find meaning in our lives. The mere presence of these cherished individuals can bring a feeling of peace and security during times of fear and doubt. However, as a dying person becomes weaker and energy levels get progressively lower, trying to maintain these relationships can become hard and even overwhelming. In this dimension, caregiving means being sensitive to who these cherished individuals are and understanding the nature of their attachment to the dying person. It also means helping the person who is coping with dying to find ways to maintain the relationships even if in a new, but still satisfying, manner. As energy levels continue to deteriorate, helping may also include assisting the dying person in re-examining the relationships and adjusting priorities.
A common concern of those coping with dying is: How will those who have depended on me in the past be able to go forward? How will my role as husband, or as mother, or as company leader, or as caregiver to my aged loved one(s), or as… be taken care of when I’m gone? Basically, the person is saying that part of who I am, my identity, my purpose, my meaning in life, is wrapped up in the roles I occupy. I will soon no longer be able to fulfill those roles. They are important to me, they are surely important to others, and so how will they be handled?
The first way of helping someone who is bringing up those kinds of questions is to talk to him/her about the concerns, give the person an opportunity to express them, and let him/her know they are valid. Following that validation, the next way to help is to act as an advocate. Advocacy involves finding resources so that, where possible, the responsibilities of the roles can be "handed off" to someone or something else. An important aspect of advocacy work is to enable and/or empower the person to act for him/herself in trying to satisfy his/her requirements. Working through social tasks can be a prime way for those coping with dying to maintain their autonomy, their humanness, and to some extent, control.